Coming three years after Epic Games sued both Apple and Google over antitrust issues with their App Stores, a federal jury has found that Epic was right in regards to Google. The jury found that Google had illegally tied its services together and used its market position to bully mobile app developers and publishers into using those services at inflated prices.
The complaint against Google
Epic Games has long complained that the percentage that Apple and Google charge for transactions in their respective stores, which is 30 percent, is unreasonable. However, the company has said that it would be their right to charge what they want, so long as there are options for customers and developers. However, neither platform openly allows alternatives, either to their app stores or their payment systems.
However, Apple and Google do not allow external app stores on their platforms. Because of this, the companies can enforce a requirement to also use their payment systems. The rule is if you distribute through our stores, you must also use our payment system. But, you cannot use another method of public distribution, which means that if you want users to be able to use your application, you have to play ball with these rules. This is the foundation of the complaint against Apple and Google.
Epic Games increases tensions
Epic Games made a change to their popular game on mobile: Fortnite. The company published a change that allowed them to change the ways users could purchase V-Bucks, the game's in-game currency. According to Apple and Googe's rules, the purchases could only be purchased through their respective payment systems. However, players on Windows have the ability to purchase directly through Epic Games. So, Epic turned on the ability to purchase directly through them, and their game was removed from both the App Store and Google Play.
This move by both Apple and Google gave Epic Games the ammunition that it needed to sue the companies. The results of the two lawsuits have been incredibly different, however. The first suit to make it to trial was against Apple, and it did not go in Epic's favor. In fact, the ruling was almost entirely in favor of Apple, except for the payment requirement.
Google loses its fight
The result of the Google case, however, could not have been more different from the Apple case. The jury found unanimously that Google was guilts on all counts. In fact, all jurors said "yes" on all 11 questions on the verdict form. The verdict says that Google's position on Google Play violated antitrust law. It also found that the connection between Google Play and the Google Play payments system also violated antitrust laws.
But, the verdict didn't just go after the treatment of developers and publishers. The complaint, and therefore the verdict found that Google's agreements with manufacturers are also illegal. In particular, these agreements require that manufacturers show "powered by Android", later updated in branding, to have access to and and all Google Play services. It also requires that Android installations must not contain third-party app stores if you want to use the Google Play Store.
The results of this verdict are not yet entirely clear. But, we can expect the court to require Google to open up the ability for third-party app stores, possibly including Epic Games' own store. A similar requirement to Apple, allowing other payment processors, will also likely be on the horizon. But, for now, appeals are the guaranteed next steps for Google.